Learning the ancient art of Buddhist vegetarian cooking
“I would like people to experience shojin cuisine using their five senses. Explanation is all very well, but true understanding does not come without listening to the silent voice of vegetables. You must put effort into facing the things that you cannot see with your eyes or hear with your ears to find an answer. That is Buddhist cuisine.”
After his sell-out Carousel residency two years ago, vegetable whisperer Toshio Tanahashi is back with a very special shojin-ryori workshop. For Toshio, shojin isn’t just a matter of technique, but of a spiritual experience, which he hopes will lead towards greater understanding of the way we view our food and our dietary habits.
Introduced to Kyoto monasteries by the Chinese in the 7th century, this entirely vegetable based style of cooking is all about “moving forward whilst respecting the old, and keeping oneself pure.” Sho means “purify”, while jin comes from the word for “advance.” In other words, it means to “move forward whilst respecting the old, and keeping oneself pure.”
Only plants are used - no meat, no fish; only grains and vegetables - and Toshio is master of his art, respected the world over. Featured in the likes of The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The Telegraph Magazine, Vice Munchies and The Guardian, he regularly gives talks and demonstrations around the world, from the V&A and the Venice Biennale to New York’s Japan Society and Ted X Tokyo.
In this unique three-hour workshop Toshio will reveal the intricacies of shojin-ryori, its fascinating history, its many health benefits and its increasing importance to society.
Toshio will then teach you how to prepare a traditional shojin menu, step by step, using a traditional Japanese surikogi (pestle) and suribachi (mortar). The therapeutic process of grinding sesame seeds (the paste is then used to make tofu) is considered an extension of Buddhist meditation, helping you bring a bit of zen back to your kitchen at home. In Toshio’s words, the process helps him “to prepare [his] heart and mind for the day ahead”.
You will then prepare a traditional ichiju-issai meal, consisting of a soup, a main dish, rice and dessert. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready and raring to try out your new shojin skills on your friends and family at home. This is a truly unique opportunity for us think more deeply about the food we eat with a wonderfully warm and engaging teacher with a truly international following.
*participants must bring their own knife (any large kitchen knife will do)